Fact sheet for Senate Bill 16; Fix the Public Financing Act, Senator Peter Wirth
• The state of New Mexico has two systems races for public financing of campaigns, the Public Regulation Commission and appellate judges.
• On June 27, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of public campaign financing in the Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett decision.
• The bill will not cost the state any extra money as the caps on funding remain the same. The bill does not expand our current public financing system; it only fixes the current one.
• A candidate seeking public funds must collect $5 contributions from voters in their districts. If they reach a certain threshold, they receive a block grant to run their campaigns. This part of public campaign financing remains untouched by the Arizona Free Enterprise decision.
• The ruling, however, struck down one mechanism used in some public financing programs, including New Mexico's Voter Action Act. Our current law gives additional matching funds to publicly financed candidates when they are faced with a privately financed candidate who’s outspending them. This was struck down.
• The new law would simply allow publicly financed candidates to accept small contributions of $100 or less. These $100-or-less contributions would be matched with additional public funds on a 4-1 basis, and the publicly financed candidate could continue to effectively compete with a privately financed opponent.
• Senator Wirth’s bill is modeled after the Fair Elections Now Act, a federal bill that was developed in anticipation of this decision. Inserting this provision encourages small-donor fundraising while also making public financing more attractive to candidates.
• Unprecedented bipartisan support in both chambers:
Senate Rules Committee, 8-1
Senate Judiciary Committee, 9-0
House Voters and Elections Committee, 10-0
House Judiciary Committee, 11-0
Senate Floor, 33-7
House Floor, 68-0
Common Cause New Mexico is dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard in the political process.